Does discrimination play a role in fitness to practise processes? –

Has your employer acknowledged or addressed any issues with high caseloads in your team?

View Results
The three groups were not only overrepresented in concerns referred to Social Work England but also in cases that reached the hearings stage.
The findings were based on an analysis of diversity data supplied to the regulator by 94% of registered practitioners from 2021-23, along with fitness to practice referrals received since Social Work England started work in December 2019.
In those, black social workers made up one in three cases referred to a hearing, despite comprising one in six registered practitioners.
Still, Social Work England urged caution when looking at the findings, as the disparities identified did not “necessarily indicate that differences in outcomes are caused by a social worker belonging to a group within a particular characteristic”.

However, more than two-thirds (72%) of practitioners replying to a recent Community Care poll, which amassed 1,049 votes, said discrimination often affected fitness to practise processes.
Only 9% said discrimination played no role, while 12% said it did occasionally.
During this year’s Community Care Live, Social Work England’s chief executive, Colum Conway, said the regulator would be looking into why such differences were arising and how they could be addressed.
“We haven’t been able to get underneath the cause as yet, but it’s a very complex spectre,” he said. “We’ll certainly do what we can to address why it is that these groups are more likely to end up in a hearing than other groups. Does it go back to the nature of the referral or is it something in our processes that we need to seriously address as well?
“This will be part of the information we feed back into the system, not just here but in education and training and other areas. It’s everybody’s responsibility.”
Conway announced that the next phase of this work would be to delve deeper into the findings, such as breaking them down by geographic areas and specific ethnic groups.
However, he cautioned that that would only be possible if practitioners were as detailed as possible when completing their application to renew their registration this autumn.
“The more complete you can make that process, [the better],” Conway added. “It is individually important for your registration but, for the picture that we are trying to build for those over 100,000 social workers, it is crucial.”
In comments under our article on the issue, the disparity in referral and hearing rates sparked fear and uncertainty, particularly among newly qualified and student social workers who fell within the highlighted demographic groups.
“Reading this is making me worried,” said Andy. “I am 40-plus and black. I am now wondering if I am joining the right profession after reading this report and subsequent reports.”
His worry was echoed by Mike, who also ticked all the boxes in the report.
“I am in the same position as you, Andy. Forty-plus, black, and new to the profession. I’m miles concerned [about] my choice to get into social work. Guess I will have to be guarded as much as possible and hope for the best.”
Jackie, who has just applied for a training programme to become a social worker, was left contemplating whether she had made the right choice in doing so.
“I innocently want to have a career that affects the lives of families and children [for the better]. I don’t want to be abused or discriminated at or have my career journey be traumatic and full of regrets.”
And while the findings led some students and early career social workers to question their career choice, for some experienced practitioners they were a reason to say goodbye to the profession.
Joseph, who had been through a fitness to practise investigation, said he was looking forward to deregistering this year.
“After my experiences, this data underscores that, with my protected characteristic profile, the risks faced in remaining in the profession far outweigh the benefits. The fitness to practise process is brutal and protracted. I’m fortunate to have regained sanity and better health subsequently.”
“I’m out of here after 25 years too,” said Abdul, who had been referred by someone he didn’t know. “Not worth it. I value my reputation, life and personal time too much.”
One reader, who ticked all the demographics highlighted by Social Work England, had resigned from his employment due to his case being in process for over two years.
“If you are still working during [your fitness to practise investigation], it’s likely psychologically and emotionally very difficult to concentrate on your job – effectively and safely,” he said.
He advised fellow practitioners in similar situations to “stay engaged” and help improve the process whenever possible, but also to prioritise their mental health.
“My immediate advice to anyone directly affected by this process (despite the focused demographics) is to prioritise your wellbeing,” he said.
“Keep calm, assume some self-responsibility and find a friend to confide in. In a high blame culture (public, health and social work, education profession), the complaint issues may not always be about your actions alone.”
, , ,
As a social worker thirty years into my career , I am disappointed to see these results. To all people of all backgrounds and from all communities of colour . I have the privilege to work with black social workers from all walks of life. I have never felt the need to question fitness to practise. All are exemplary in practise and an assets to the profession of social work. Please come join this profession , your contribution will be valued and appreciated by most, you can’t please everybody, that’s just the way it is. It saddens me greatly we can’t escape this spectre of discrimination. Let’s not give in and let’s us become stronger together, what do ya say?
It seems wildly disproportionate that so many men are subjected to ftp procedures when men only comprise 15% of the social work profession. The issue of discrimination is often raised in this context but there is never any analysis as to WHO is doing the discriminating. Is this phenomenon evident in any other other professions?
I am not surprised at all and I am in that category black and 40+. It is easier to blame and label a SW from BAME. On the other hand, I do understand bad practice is bad practice and it should be investigated without any discriminatory influence.
I’m not sure how this is even a question. Fitness to Practice is proven to be discriminatory – WE KNOW THIS ALREADY!!! Who cares?
Below is a list of previous articles CC has published. SO WHAT ARE SWE AND THE REST GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? Short answer – NOTHING! So what are WE going to do about it…?
i recently come from Africa to work as a social worker in the UK. I tick all the boxes, black, male and over 40. I want to say definitely this is true. First within my first month my manager a white female told me about it during supervision as a pass on comment. I can say for the past 7 months I have faced hell on earth. Being sidelined, reports being over-scrutinized, not being allocated cases for some time, being told ‘you are not confident enough’ we do not think you will be able to ask deeper questions, probation extension after extension, I have been accused of everything. it’s like flowing against the tide. I have just accepted that it is tough to be a black, male over 40 social worker in the UK.
“We haven’t been able to get underneath the cause as yet…” Erm, it’s called institutional racism (and discrimination) Colum – that is the starting point! Stop the stalling tactics.
“We’ll certainly do what we can..” Unconvincing and seemingly uninterested. What have you/SWE done in the last 3 years? Lots of “evidence gathering”, bugger all action!
“It’s everybody’s responsibility.” Actually, no it’s not. Tackling institutional racism (and discrimination) is surely a key role for the social work regulator. Do what we pay you (twice) for!
I’m a black female with years of work experience as a SW & BIA currently undergoing ftps investigation and I must confess that I have been mentally damaged by the impact of the report, investigation and lack of genuine support for me. I am doubtful if ill survive the fearful experience. I went into the profession to help Improve the lives of disadvantaged people. I am a dedicated worker who have worked so hard and helped improved the lives of people and im proud of this cause I used to enjoy my job. However, the systems, injustices, inequality and the unfair treatments that I have witnessed and endured throughout my career has caused me not to renew my registration this year. I will definitely share my real life experiences after Ieaving the profession so that any black SWs considering the profession can think, weigh up the benefits and burdens of the profession before committing to such a high risk job that could caused a long lasting detrimental on their lives.
It’s immediately obvious looking at the FtP lists on the website the hugely disproportionate numbers of names of African & Asian heritage. Really disturbing! Although sadly replicating patterns across the board in mental health, policing, sentencing etc. The changes need to be made at the frontline as well as SWE structures & processes, why are disproportionate numbers of people of colour/older workers being referred in the first place?
I am not encouraged by what I am reading as a prospective social worker. This is a profession where we are taught about empathy, however, subjecting people to a fitness to practice exercise for two years does not seem empathetic to the social worker in question? Are we not human too?
SWE are the perfect reflection of our exploitative and hostile government. Their systems are working great to suit the government agenda – to subdue social work.
The FTP process is completely flawed. People who sit on panels are all white middle class who have very little sympathy or empathy, prejudiced and do not seem to have a clue about cultural sensitivity. You are guilty before judgement as a black person. Do not make any mistakes in social work if you are black folks. What your white colleagues will get a warning for, you will get suspended or struck off if you are black, even when they did worse. Check the records… yes!!! Ironic in a profession that preaches anti racism, anti discrimination, anti this, anti that anti….. In fact, it is laughable.

How we can help your organisation
The best social work and social care jobs
CC Inform, the online resource for practitioners
The biggest and best social care event